~ brief history — 1767 ~

1673  <  History  >  1838

1767

The first lighthouse, 42 feet tall, is built on Morris Island to guide ships approaching Charleston Harbor.

In 1750, His Majesty's legislature in Carolina passed an act calling for a permanent beacon to be built. Never acted on and about to expire, another proclamation in 1757 the authorized the construction of a permanent beacon extending the time for its construction to 1765. However, in late 1757, the funds for the beacon were diverted to complete the steeple at St. Michael's Church.

The Charles Towne port became extremely busy, more than 800 ships clearing the port annually. King George III ordered that a permanent lighthouse be built. On May 30, 1767, the cornerstone for a permanent beacon was finally laid on Middle Bay Island. Historians know from a lead plate discovered in the 19th century that this first lighthouse was octagonal in shape, designed by Samuel Cordy, and built by Adam Miller and engineer Thomas Young. The tower was 42 feet above low tide and burned whale oil in lamps suspended from the dome's interior.

The "Charleston Light" was one of 10 pre-Revolutionary lighthouses built in the Colonies. Once the Revolutionary War began, the colonists extinguished the 10 lights so as not to aid the British ships.

On Sept. 15, 1775, fearing for his safety, Royal Governor William Campbell fled to the HMS Tamar, anchored in Charleston Harbor. The same day, the colonists' Council of Safety ordered the seizure of Fort Johnson. A small force led by Colonel William Moultrie captured the fort and the Charleston Light was extinguished. The Charleston Light remained extinguished until 1780 when the British lighted it after a successful siege on Charles Towne. The Charleston Light was one of only two lighthouses to survive the Revolutionary War.

A French Navigational Map of 1776 shows the location of the Charleston Light on Middle Bay Island and in the vicinity of the Pumpkin Hill Channel. The map noted on the side of the channel is a reef of rocks warning, "If struck, you will sink immediately."

1673  <  History  >  1838